There’s still more brinkmanship at play than bipartisanship as Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature negotiate a state budget deal, but Gov. Jay Inslee continued his mediator role Friday and provided some insight into where the two sides are at.
One of the larger points of argument, a new tax on capital gains for certain investors, could be off the table. Inslee, in prepared remarks before a press conference, said he had advised House Democrats that revenue from the capital gains tax was no longer necessary to the budget. We, as did other newspaper editorial boards, supported the capital gains tax. And, as the Legislature returns to the question of education funding two years from now, it should be reconsidered as a viable revenue option. Its effect was targeted to the state’s wealthiest and exempted investments many residents have in homes and farms.
If Democrats will make that concession, Inslee is hoping Senate Republicans will allow some tax cuts and loopholes to be eliminated or expire. There remains for the $38 billion budget about $300 million to $350 million between the parties’ spending proposals, which could be satisfied by eliminating those loopholes, particularly one that benefits the oil industry.
Concessions have been made by both sides, but the work is far from complete. The Legislature’s second special session concludes Saturday. It’s absolute deadline is June 30, when the lack of a budget deal would force a partial shutdown of government, including the layoff of 26,000 state workers, closure of state parks and other agencies and force the loss of day-care services for 35,000 parents in state job-training programs.
As disruptive as a partial shutdown of state government would be, which was flirted with two years ago, longer-lasting damage could result if the Legislature can’t come to a budget accord. Both the capital budget, with a significant list of spending projects important to communities throughout the state, and the $15 billion transportation budget have been set aside while negotiations on the operating budget took center stage. Democrats on the House have maintained their intention to not vote on the 11.7-cent gas tax increase, which makes the transportation budget possible, until the operating budget is passed.
Snohomish County, which stands to see about $570 million in transportation infrastructure projects, needs that investment. The transportation budget also would authorize Sound Transit to seek voters’ approval of its $15 billion light rail extension to Everett, Tacoma and east King County.
The Legislature failed to reach a deal on a roads package two years ago, putting off projects the county needs to get commuters between home and jobs and goods from our farms and factories to customers. Likewise, the county’s communities are counting on funding in the capital budget for projects ranging from a Boys &Girls Club in Arlington to WSU’s North Puget Sound Center in Everett.
Delay until the session’s final hours, or worse, June 30, brings us closer to losing too much for our communities and jeopardizing future economic growth.